Are Your Blue Jeans Green Enough?

Take these steps for an eco-friendlier wardrobe.

By Emily Main

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make sure your wardrobe is eco-friendlyWHAT IT MEANS:
It's certainly admirable that Levi's is educating it's shoppers about the need to save energy while washing and drying clothing. And there are good reasons to do so, including a lower energy bill. But where your wardrobe is concerned, the greenest thing you can do when clothes-shopping is…not shop so much. The proliferation of "disposable" fashion, as it's often called, is due in large part to companies shipping production overseas to countries with few environmental and labor protections in place, says Greer. "There's very little you can buy that's made in America or in Canada," where environmental protections keep polluting factories from turning rivers red, purple, or green, she says. "Nearly everything comes from a country that has neither the will nor the capability to manage the huge volumes of pollution that come from textile mills."

Update your summer wardrobe with minimal environmental impact by learning how to be a smarter shopper:

• Buy recycled. It's not easy to nail down a perfect fiber, from an environmental standpoint, says Greer. "Nothing comes out as a clear winner," she notes. Cotton, while a renewable material, is the most pesticide-intensive crop on the planet, and polyester, which dries quickly and therefore uses very little energy to launder, is a synthetic material made from petroleum. "Even an organic cotton t-shirt still has to be dyed and finished, and even if you're using more ecofriendly dyes, there's still a tremendous amount of energy and water involved in the process," says Greer. The greenest clothing? Used, vintage clothing that comes from thrift stores, Greer says.

• Stick to the basics. "The root of the problem is the overconsumption we have in this country," she says. "What I urge people to do, if they can't stop shopping, is at least content themselves with things that are the basics." Buying high-quality basics, such as a nice pair of pants or a shirt that will last, will reduce your overall impact, and you can shop at designer-resale stores for trendy splurges.

• Line-dry anyway. Regardless of where you buy your clothes, you can still save tons of energy by line-drying and washing in cold water, as Levi's suggests. For tips on setting up an indoor or an outdoor clothing line, read Clothesline 101.

This article originally appeared on rodale.com.

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